ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

17 September 2002


1. EU should target US genetically modified food
2. Government approach to GM reporting illegal
3. Object to building up GM seed stocks!


1. EU should target US genetically modified food and energy intensive products in trade dispute

Friends of the Earth Europe
Press release
16 September 2002

Friends of the Earth Europe today called on EU Trade Commissioner Lamy and EU governments to target US exported genetically modified (GM) foods and energy intensive products in retaliation for the US violation of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on Foreign Sales Corporations (1). This call follows the European Commission's decision to publish last friday an initial list of US products that will be targeted for countermeasures (2).

Following the WTO's authorisation to the EU to impose countermeasures on US imported goods, worth US$ 4,043, the Commission's brand-new list includes a wide range of products, including agricultural goods, textiles, iron and steel (2). The European Commission has asked European business to send their comments and views on which products 100% additional duties should be raised.

Commenting Alexandra Wandel of Friends of the Earth said:

"We call on Commissioner Lamy and European governments to consider European consumer concerns and the protection of our global environment when targeting US products. Genetically modified food and animal feed products as well as energy intensive products seems to be the obvious choice to make a move towards fairer and more sustainable transatlantic trade''.

Friends of the Earth believes that the EU should ensure the right to choose GM-free food (3).  Therefore the de-facto moratorium, which blocks new imports of GMO‚s, should remain in place until at least mandatory labelling of all GM-food and GM-animal feed is fully operational.  According to FoE, the countermeasures on US imported goods form another justification to strengthen the moratorium.  The countermeasures should target US products such as vegetable oils which are currently on the EU market without mandatory labelling.

Despite consumer's concerns against GM foods, the US has threatened legal action under World Trade Organisation rules against European GM legislation (4). Now that the US administration has revealed that WTO rules count for little, FOEE calls on the EU to stand firm on GMOs.

EU governments should also consider targeting specifically high energy intensive products. The US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol is unfair and puts European business at a disadvantage. With Bush's increasing rejection of international agreements that are essential to protect our environment, Europe should have every right to penalise US goods for the pollution they cause.

Alexandra Wandel, Trade and Sustainability Coordinator, tel: 02-542 01 85
Geert Ritsema,  GMO campaigner, tel: 02-542 01 81, tel: 31-6 29 00 59 08

1) Following an EC request, the WTO has found that the US tax treatment of Foreign Sales Corporations constitutes a prohibited export subsidy. On 30 August, the WTO has authorised the EU to take countermeasures on US products worth US $ 4,043 million.  The EU must formally notify the WTO of the relevant detailed list of products until November 2002. Countermeasures may be taken anytime after final WTO authorisation has been granted.
2) For the full list see the current proposal from the EC is published in Sept. 13‚s Official Journal of the EC (OJ C217, 13/9/2002),
3) 71% of European citizens reject genetically modified foods, but have no right to avoid them, since in the EU there is no mandatory labelling of most food derived from GMO‚s. GM animal feed and products derived therefrom (like milk, eggs and meat) are not labelled at all.
4) The EU currently has a moratorium on the import of new GM products which has led to US threats of legal action under WTO rules. Genetically modified food that was being imported prior to the introduction of the moratorium is still imported to the EU - including GM soya and maize, primarily in animal feed.


2. Government approach to GM reporting illegal, says FoE

Press  Release
Immediate release: Tues 10th September

Crucial information on the performance of GM crop trials could be being overlooked because the Government is breaking the law on monitoring and reporting, Friends of the Earth said today.  The group has written to the Secretary of State for DEFRA Margaret Beckett, raising concerns about the biotech industry monitoring reports accepted by her department, following advice that they are illegal.

The environmental group consulted top lawyers after seeing a copy of a post-release monitoring report submitted by Aventis CropScience (now Bayer CropScience), covering the winter oilseed rape Farm Scale Trials in 2000/01. The report, which covered 28 different sites from Durham to Dorset was just two sentences in length.  It read:

"The plants grew normally in comparison to non-GM crops, no unexpected events occurred and proceeded to normal harvest, except for High Halden, which was sown late and never established properly.  This was ploughed in in November."

Friends of the Earth's lawyers concluded:

". a report like the Aventis report is not a legally adequate discharge of its license and statutory obligations, and the Secretary of State is acting contrary to law in accepting such reports as compliant."

Friends of the Earth believes the Secretary of State is in breach of her legal obligations by accepting "wholly inadequate" reports from the biotechnology companies.  Key issues relating to the legal conditions in the farm-scale trial consent issued by DEFRA, such as cross-pollination of neighbouring crops, are seldom reported on by the biotech companies.  The environmental campaign group is calling for clear guidance to be issued setting out the type of information that the biotech companies need to provide in their monitoring reports.
Commenting Phil Michaels, Friends of the Earth's Legal Advisor, said: "DEFRA has let the biotech corporations get away with the barest minimum of reporting. But the legislation clearly requires evidence that monitoring has taken place. Without that information it is impossible for the Secretary of State properly to evaluate the risk posed by the crops to human health and the environment.

"As things stand, reports could be written without the companies leaving their offices.  DEFRA must tighten up the reporting requirements and make the biotech companies  take their responsibilities for human health and the environment seriously".


Copies of Friends of the Earth's letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett and of the legal opinion are available from the press office at Friends of the Earth.

Phil Michaels    020 7566 1725
Peter Riley        07712 843 210


3. Object to building up GM seed stocks! (Urgent)

[Please write or e-mail - sample letter enclosed]

Received from Jean Saunders via FoE list:

The latest DEFRA move to flood the countryside with even more GMO releases is in the form of a change in the law that would allow GM crops to be grown in order to build up a stock of seeds for commercial use once the GM seed is listed.

At the moment GM crops are not planted for this purpose.  However the latest proposals in a consultation paper would allow GM and non-GM seed to be grown in the first year of National List trials in order to multiply seed.

Under pressure from the biotech industry and ignoring pressure from us (who demanded that the new law should not apply to GM seed) the REVIEW OF SEED CERTIFICATION IN ENGLAND:  EARLY MULTIPLICATION OF SEEDS calls for GM and non GM varieties to be treated in the same way assuming that the GMO has a consent to be released.  The industry said that they wouldn't use the option until 2005.

Please object (standard letter below) by 10 October 2002 to

Mrs F Foster
Plant Variety and Seeds Division
White House Lane
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0LF

Tel: 01223 342375
Fax:  01223 342386

Dear Mrs Foster


I strongly object to the proposals to allow for the early multiplication of Genetically Modified (GM) seed varieties that might be grown in the first year of National List trials in order to increase seed stock.

The biotech industry state that there is no difference between a GM and non-GM seed variety and, as such, there should be no discrimination against GM varieties in the Seed Certification process.  I disagree.  There is a substantial difference between GM and non GM varieties.  There is already evidence of gene stacking, contamination of conventional seed with approved and unapproved GMOs,  increased "weediness" of some GM varieties, GM pollen contamination in honey, adverse and unexpected effects of GMOs etc etc.

I do not consider that the regulations that control the release of GMOs into the environment are adequate to prevent transgenic organisms escaping into the environment.  Moreover the conditions of consent are inadequately policed and poorly controlled.

I appreciate that your department has asked the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment for their advice on the risk of gene flow and gene stacking.  ACRE's dismissive response was totally at odds with those of English Nature and the European Environment Agency’s findings in their report issued this year entitled  "Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): The significance of gene flow through pollen transfer" by Katie Eastham, Jeremy Sweet et al.

The executive summary includes the statement:

"Oilseed rape can be described as a high-risk crop for crop-to-crop gene flow and from crop to wild relatives.......

Sugar beet can be described as medium to high risk for gene flow from crop to crop and from crop to wild relatives.............

Maize can be described as a medium to high-risk crop for gene flow from crop to crop.......

The possible implications of hybridisation and introgression between crops and wild plant species are so far unclear because it is difficult to predict how the genetically engineered genes will be expressed in a related wild species. The fitness of wild plant species containing introgressed genes from a GM crop will depend on many factors involving both the genes introgressed and the recipient ecosystem. While it is important to determine frequencies of hybridisation between crops and wild relatives, it is more important to determine whether genes will be introgressed into wild populations and establish at levels which will have a significant ecological impact.

I am totally opposed to allowing changes that will enable the multiplication of ANY Genetically Modified seed variety under the provisional certification scheme.  In view of the uncertainties related to the safety and unpredictability of GMOs, I believe that any expansion in the programme to allow GM crops to be grown in the open environment, is totally unacceptable.  GM seeds must be excluded from the proposal.

Please keep me informed about any decisions taken.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely

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